Holi, the festival of colors, is celebrated in the month of Phalgun (February-March). Also called Phagwah, it is the full moon day in Phalgun that ushers in the spring season in India. It is also a celebration of the harvest season.
The festival gets its name from the Puranic story of Holika. Holika was the sister the demon-king Hiranyakashipu. The king, egoistic as he was, desired that everybody in his kingdom worship him alone. Much to his ire, he found that his son, Prahlada, was a worshipper of Lord Vishnu. It was then that Hiranyakashipu decided to kill Prahlada in connivance with his sister. Holika had been granted a boon that gave her the power to remain unaffected by fire. To lure Prahlada into a fire, Holika sat him on her lap and pretended to play with him while Hiranyakashipu ordered his men to set the place where they sat on fire. It was then that Holika’s boon failed her. In her sinister venture to kill the Lord’s devotee, Holika was burned to ashes while Prahlada came out unscathed.
Another reason why Holi is significant is its association with Raasleela, the Divine Dance that Lord Krishna performed for the gopis , his devotees in Vrindavan on this day.
‘Holi’ comes from the word ‘hola’ which means sacrifice. And the festival is a reminder that we must live our lives in a spirit of service and sacrifice.
Holi symbolises victory of our higher aspirations over our lower, base desires. It is the burning of our petty, material desires at the altar of our goal of self-development. It stands for the victory of good over evil, a theme that runs through every Indian festival. For it is impossible that those who live their lives by truth will ever be overcome by the corrupt.
Another important aspect of Holi is its joy and fun. Contrary to common perception, spirituality is about enjoying life to its fullest. The spiritual life is not about giving up our possessions but discovering higher, permanent joys. It is a path filled with serendipity and moments of sheer joy reflected in the life of Lord Krishna.
Thus, the spirituality that Vedanta speaks is of isn’t meant only for ascetics in the Himalayas. It is a philosophy that is meant for men and women of the action. It is a vibrant, living knowledge that enables us to make life a celebration. So on Holi, we must remember to bring the color into our lives by living the principles of Vedanta.